Polls in States pose tough challenge to BJP in year ahead
The polls, in Karnataka described as a decisive battle before elections are held for Lok Sabha in 2019, will only indicate a trend as every State poll to follow in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will be equally important. If Karnataka reveals a dismal or bright future for Congress party, polls in Hindi heartland will indicate if BJP hold on Hindi belt is intact or has been eroded. Karnataka will certainly show if the door to the South is open for BJP or shut.
What needs to be understood in context of Indian elections is that the battle for States clearly reveals how the decisive poll for Lok Sabha will turn out. As such, unlike in the past when one decisive battle decided the future of dynasties, now we could witness a series of battles and the sum total of it decides the future outcome. In this context it should be kept in mind that a political party which has expanded far and wide will also suffer the consequences of a defeat in a remote corner.
A friend of mine with a historical bent of mind says that in the past every ruler expanded his empire far and wide before his decline started. In case of modern India a political party also expands before its erosion starts. The Moghal dynasty was at the height of its power in the Aurangzeb times before erosion started through fighting reckless battles in South. The British empire was at its height before it became bankrupt because of fighting Second World War and its hold shrank to Britain only.
In this context I cannot forget how my cab driver in London, talked about the debate on joining or quitting The European Union. He kept on complaining that “We won the War” and why are we being dominated by powers like Germany”. In context of India let us not forget that Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi suffered setbacks when they were at the height of their power, having won huge majorities in Lok Sabha polls. I am not about to predict the future of Modi Government, but the trend has set in with a slow erosion.
As time passes BJP is becoming more and more like Congress. The High Command culture is developing as indicated by a dictate by Center asking every BJP M.P to visit residence of a Dalit and dine with him. Instructions were obeyed by either engaging catrers or by overhauling and refurnishing the House of Dalit. In every poll a distress call is made to Central leadership or to Prime Minister to help in fighting opposition to save the State from going out of BJP control.
The latest example of it was Gujarat, home State of Prime Minister, where victory was taken for granted for more than a decade , but this time prime Minister had to campaign hard virtually going to every constituency to win a paper thin majority. Indications are that it will not be any different in Karnataka where media men are using expressions like Neck to neck fight or too close to make a call.
In this context it may be mentioned that all polls in future say in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand will be close. In States like West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra or Jharkhand BJP will meet strong a challenge from regional parties, while in Hindi belt, the challenge will come from the Congress party. As such duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will spend the current year facing one challenge after another in different states before the final battle next year. One cannot help but predict that more BJP expands, more vunerable it will become in areas of its core strength that is Hindi belt and new areas where it has expanded.
The battles will take place in the background of a tough economic situation that a continuous rise in petroleum prices, putting pressure on foreign exchange reserves, leading to high inflation. This will make GDP growth difficult and encourage further inflation. The BJP Government will have to face these challenges in the background of a total breakdown of any dialogue with the opposition.
Indian Banks will be another area of concern as they are facing a crisis because of the rise in non-performing assets and frauds like one committed by diamond merchants led by Nirav Modi as well as Vijay Mallya and others. To say the least, I am predicting a tough year ahead for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)